‘Pixel Pioneer’ debuts unseen digital works by Keith Haring

‘Pixel Pioneer’ debuts unseen digital works by Keith Haring
Image by Keith Haring, courtesy of Christie's
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Keith Haring’s vibrant expressions of cartoonishly simple humanity in motion have become ubiquitous with the framings of the late 80s art world. His truly individual style is gently suffused with New York queer cultural themes, most especially the AIDS epidemic. Now, for the first time, we’ll see the icon’s works through a lens as pervasive in the era that immediately followed Haring’s death—Christie’s is premiering Haring’s computer drawings with the new NFT auction Pixel Pioneer.


Collecting five separate untitled pieces, the Pixel Pioneer auction is the first time these works have been publicly displayed. Minted on the Ethereum blockchain, these works will be up for auction from September 12th to 20th and are expected to go for approximately $200,000 to $500,000 each. But with early digital works by Andy Warhol going for a collective $3.3 million in 2021, it can be expected that these works may pull in similar numbers, despite the value and interest of NFTs waning.


Keith Haring first came to experiment in computer art thanks to the infamous Timothy Leary, the divisive psychologist and writer who delved the world of psychedelics, pushed back against societal strictures, and coined the phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out.” At the time, Leary was becoming increasingly enthralled with the digital sector, beginning to develop a video game adaptation of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, wanting Haring to create the visuals. While the project (tragically) never moved forward, it gave Haring the chance to create a handful of works on a Commodore Amiga personal computer.


The title of the auction seems a bit of a misnomer given that these works have never seen the light of day to make an impression, and when one considers Haring exhibited a healthy fear for the incoming technology impacting traditional artists. But the work does ring with the energy and life that the artist’s works are always so full of, with Untitled #1 even seeming to be somewhat reflective of his venture into the medium.


With a rocky state continuing for the NFT world, a debut of unseen works by one of art history’s most beloved figures seems like a solid measure to inject life back into the movement. But Pixel Pioneer does have a slight tone to it that seems desperate to tie the legacy of Keith Haring to the culture of Web3.